Nearly 50 years ago, Frederick Forsyth vaulted onto bestseller lists around the world with his first novel, The Day of the Jackal. Now, at age 80, he’s back in familiar territory with a great new spy novel, The Fox, his 15th work of fiction.
A great new spy novel
This book could only have been written within the last couple of years. The story revolves around Donald Trump (referred to as “POTUS”) and Vladimir Putin (“the Vozhd,” meaning “the Godfather”), both of whom make cameo appearances. Recent events in North Korea and Iran as well as the United States figure in the plot. And the story is all about computer hacking, a subject Forsyth could hardly have written about earlier in his career. The central figure is an 18-year-old British boy on the Asperger’s continuum who demonstrates hacking skills that enable him to invade the innermost sanctums of any government in the world. He’s the Fox of the title.
The Fox by Frederick Forsyth (2018) 304 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Frederick Forsyth’s grim view of the world
The author’s perspective on world affairs comes through clearly in The Fox. Characters in the novel make this clear with such statements as “Things have not been this bad since Stalin’s time” and “The West is under covert attack, masquerading as provocations, at every level.” Forsyth’s treatment of Donald Trump is balanced, but he portrays Vladimir Putin as a murderous thug. And he presents both the North Korean and Iranian governments as unreservedly evil.
Impressive detail about espionage today
The greatest strength of The Fox is the abundant detail Forsyth uses to keep the reader engaged. Everything I recognized from other sources rang true. Clearly, he is very knowledgeable about the way the intelligence community operates in Russia, Great Britain, the United States, Iran, and North Korea. No doubt some details are fictional. But the story is firmly grounded on fact.
Forsyth’s unique writing style
Dialogue carries the plot in most fiction, and especially mystery and suspense fiction. Most writers find it difficult to hold the reader’s attention with narrative alone. Paragraphs tend to run long, and a simple recitation of facts can be deadly. Dialogue is easier to read. But Forsyth doesn’t follow that rule. In The Fox, dialogue is rare. I doubt there is a total of even two pages of dialogue in the whole book. Yet the story moves forward at a blistering pace. My attention never faltered.
What other reviewers are saying
Other critics seem to feel as I do that The Fox is a great new spy novel. In his review for the Washington Post (October 25, 2018), Patrick Anderson wrote that The Fox “is in one regard an odd tale but it’s also ingenious, expertly written and a serious look at international conflicts that threaten the future of the world.” Publishers Weekly leads its review of the book as follows: “A lifetime of experience from both bestseller Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) and his lead character, Sir Adrian Weston, informs every page of this terrifically entertaining spy thriller in the classic tradition.”
For additional reading
You might also enjoy my posts:
- The 10 top espionage novels reviewed on this site;
- 20 good nonfiction books about espionage;
- 20 excellent standalone mysteries and thrillers; and
- Top 10 mystery and thriller series.
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